chapter  33
6 Pages

The Gypsy King

He said: “Great king, I have a request to make of you.”“Tell me, what is your wish, what do you desire?”“The only wish I have” he said, “is that you should give orders to the troops, for they know you, not me, to be their king. I may be king, but they don’t know me, they recognize you as their king. They won’t heed my word,” he said. “So, I am asking you to order them to do everything I do. What I do, they should do, too. Nothing else, just have them do what I do.” “All right, that’s not a great deal to ask,” he said.He spoke to the soldiers: “Listen,” he said, “you must look upon this man as you look upon me. He is your king now, your leader. You must obey him and heed every word he says. Since he is king, you must regard him as if he were me. Consider him the same way you’d consider me.”The soldiers accepted and agreed to abide by the king’s orders.Well, they departed. They set forth and they went on and on, through forests and fields, cities and villages until they found themselves . . . yes, in the midst of woods again. The gypsy lad broke off a green, leafy twig from a tree and tucked it in his cap. When the soldiers saw this, each one took a green twig and also stuck it in his cap. Then they mounted their horses and continued on their way. They rode until they came to a large body of water. There was no bridge, no plank for a walkway, and the stream was so wide and deep that the horses couldn’t be let into it. The gypsy king pondered for a while. How should they get across? He walked up and down on the bank, thinking, looking, but to no avail-he didn’t see anything resembling a bridge, or a walkway, leading to the other side.Suddenly, who knows what crossed the king’s mind, he pulled the green twig from his cap and threw it into the water. The soldiers saw this, and since they had been ordered to do everything the king did and to obey him, each removed the green twig from his cap. He didn’t have to say that they should throw them into the water, they pulled the twigs out of their caps and tossed them in. All those green twigs formed a bridge, and on that bridge they crossed over with their horses to the other side. They went across the water. The mass of twigs made a bridge. Well, they reached the opposite shore and continued on their way forward. They came to a big city and within it to a market, where lace-up moccasins, bocskors, were being sold. (Do you know what a “bocskor” is? Romanians wear them.) They were selling them in the open market, dis­played on tables. (I know how they were selling the bocskors, there were oceans of them in Bucovina!) The Gypsy lad saw them and since he was a Gypsy and he loved bocskors, he snatched a pair, tag and all, and tucked it under his arm. Seeing this, every one of the soldiers also took one. The bocskors, cut and set out in pairs, were lined up on the table nicely, in rows, like books. So each soldier took a pair. The king took one and they did, too, and tucked it under their arm. No one dared to say a word. Jews were selling the

bocskors but they dared not speak up-after all it was the army. One doesn’t pick a fight with the military.